Friday, May 29, 2015

Hidden Mothering

Tuesday was a hard day. 

It was finally time.  Time to go through maternity and baby clothes that were sitting unused, and indefinitely unneeded as my infertility drags on.

It was a weepy, hard thing to go through all those memories in clothing form.

To look at the dress I wore to a wedding five months pregnant, the button downs I wore to work meetings, the comfy pants that always fit....even overdue.

Then there were the baby clothes, some packaged up for my little sister's impending arrival and the rest off to the prolife center.

But, all the sorting almost didn't happen.  I was procrastinating the hard by working on a more joyful project - superhero dresses for the soon-to-be three year old.

Then, a text from a friend.

A hot drink on my doorstep.

An encouraging reminder.

That drink, that little piece of love and support helped me start.  And every time it got hard, I'd take a drink, then think of my friend who lives 30 minutes away, but made the time to drop it off.

Then, as I sat, emotionally spent from putting baby clothes in boxes to give away, a message from a friend offering to bring dinner.

But, she didn't just bring dinner....she brought bags and bags of groceries.  One thing after the next, just reminding me that there are friends who love us, who are praying for us.

And I'm pretty sure they were calorie-free treats, because the scale was kind the next morning :)

Wednesday afternoon, I hauled three giant garbage bags stuffed with clothing at the local pro-life center where I volunteer weekly.

There was some excitement going on over a mobile medical unit on display in the parking lot, and as I brought in all my maternity clothes, some older man said, "Oh, don't give up!  Don't you need those clothes again?"

No sir, I am not giving up.  But that has nothing to do with whether or not I'll ever wear maternity clothes again. 

I laughed it off as best I could and responded, "oh well, maybe I'll need some, but I'll just buy new ones then". 

That.  That was the interaction over giving away my maternity clothes.  It felt like my heart was being ripped from me to part with those clothes because they symbolize something I can't choose to do, that I can only wait and pray for.

I know they're going to such needing homes.  I know it was time.  I know I have a half dozen friends who will loan me anything I might need for a future pregnancy.  Still, it was tough that there was no fanfare, no effusive congratulatory applause over my sacrifice.

But it hit me, so much of motherhood is hidden from fanfare.  There is no applause for the third time you clean noodles off the floor in a day.  For the countless times we walk by a room and pick up items strewn along our path.

So much of what we do as mothers is hidden. 

Mary pondered things silently in her heart. 

She didn't blare the trumpet or receive any applause for her mothering.  She did it, hidden, even largely in the Bible, for most of her mothering. 

When do we hear about her mothering in Jesus' childhood?  When she loses Jesus.  Not the best mom day.  No record of the meal she spent hours preparing for her family.  No record of walking the floors late into the night with a tiny baby.

All hidden.

Quietly pouring herself out.  Watching the world have no appreciation for her son, her life's work.

Mama had it rough.

So much of who we are as women and mothers is moving pieces behind the scenes so the whole set doesn't fall down.  Those friends bringing me love and encouragement in the form of food, mothering me.

The friends checking in throughout the day to see if I was okay, mothering me.

The friend offering giant margaritas of solidarity in our infertility struggles, mothering me.

The world doesn't need what women have, it needs what women are. - St. Edith Stein

The pro-life movement is close to my heart, and as we speak of our universal motherhood and our potential to be what the world needs, I'm also presenting another need.

Mary's Mantle is a home for expectant mothers in Southfield, MI.  They are in need of donations to furnish their facility.

I ask you to:
  • Pray - for the volunteers, employees, and most especially the expectant and new mothers
  • Consider donating to the home
  • Share the need with others
  • Find ways to act on the missions God is calling you to in your life - inside or outside your home

A word about non-profits and fundraising

Due diligence is always an important part of supporting/contributing to fundraisers of any type.

To help you discern, here are some statistics provided by the IRS via

An Overview of Mary’s Mantle from this website includes the following data:

  • Received tax exempt status in February 2010
  • Most recent year of reporting (2013) - $209,656 in annual income
  • Primary source of income is contributions
  • Total reported expenses for most recent year of reporting (2013) - $172,660
  • 57% of total expenses was personnel – average for Southfield, MI nonprofits is 39.35% in total expenses
  • Mary’s Mantle spent an average of $10,963/employee in 2013 (9 employees) – the average compensation of other nonprofits in Southfield, MI is $29,444.
  • Contributions are tax deductible under the EIN 271232703
Determining if a nonprofit is right for your donation:

There are so many worthwhile causes for your donation dollars, it can be hard to know how to spend them wisely.  To do that, you need to think about how you feel about where an organization’s money is going.

Mary’s Mantle spends a higher percentage of its funds on personnel than similar nonprofits, but a lower average dollar amount per employee.  This could be an indication that a few employees are earning the bulk of the salary (as is common with small nonprofits) or that the overall overhead is low.

This particular GoFundMe campaign is specifically for furniture.  When the nonprofit is a house, furniture is a necessary expense. 

If additional funds are raised, expect them to be contributed to the overall budget in line with the percentages reported to the IRS in years past.  A portion of additional funds might go towards office equipment, household supplies, or personnel salary.  All of these would be in line with the running of a nonprofit. 

A word in particular about donations going to salaries:

In many cases, pro-life center staffs are greatly augmented by volunteers.  Volunteers play a role in the success of Mary’s Mantle as well.  However, salaries are a necessary expense in the care and running of such locations.  It is right and just that individuals called by God to support a ministry are able to feed and shelter their own families through their ministry work. 

Think about the tithe at church on Sunday.  A portion of that tithe goes to keeping the building maintained, the lights running, the water paid; but a portion of that also goes to the priest’s salary.   

Because it is right and just that he have an income.  While some religious take a vow of poverty, not all who are called to serve in the various and wonderful ways that God calls us are able or called to do so without compensation.

In the nonprofit sector, many work at lower salaries than the private sector offers because they believe in the cause.  But, those individuals also believe their children need diapers and their houses need heat. 

I thank you for considering this cause for your donation dollars.  Whatever you are called to contribute financially, please keep this ministry in your prayers.  We are in a time of terrible attack on life, and such ministries need grace to weather the storm.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Infertility and Big Families

In the struggle with infertility, we, the infertile/subfertile are not across a divide from our sisters with large families or abundant fertility.  The line is a mental and emotional construct, and it can be deconstructed if only we stop, identify it, and pray for the grace to let any negative thoughts or feelings go.

Here's the real truth, we share more with each other when we are united in faith and open hearts than we could through life circumstance. 

It is my life circumstance that I have a small (to me; society thinks I'm perfecto) family and the education and means to have a comfortable life that includes extras many moms of many have to do without. 

All the trappings might look different, our crosses look different, but at the heart of it, we're walking in the same direction.  All of us, all of us faithful women trying to live out God's will in our lives are heading towards heaven to the best of our ability.  Whether we're walking that walk with 0, 2, or 10 kids, it's the same goal. 

I don't know why my sanctification includes the loss of a child in utero, the loss of a toddler, and secondary infertility.  I don't know.  Any more than you know why your sanctification includes any of the crosses you're carrying....and one of those crosses might be the sheer weight of caring for all the children with whom God has entrusted you.  

 Here we are, all sisters in Christ.  When struggling with infertility, it can be so tempting to step away from our sisters with large families and abundant fertility.  Because they have what we want and we just can't grasp how to bridge that divide or reconcile our aching hearts with our love for them. 

Here's how; walk next to them.  Get to know their heart.  My two biggest supports, my two best cheerleaders in my struggle with infertility have 7 and 10 children. 

They have lost children in miscarriage, they have suffered other crosses, they carry heavy burdens in the care of their family. 

One of those moms was the only person to bring me a meal after we lost Mara in an ectopic rupture.  She didn't even know me at the time really, we just belonged to the same homeschool group.  But, she had lost babies, and she reached out.

Those big family mamas, with their eyes fixed on Jesus have much more in common with the infertile mother struggling to remain open to God's will in her life than the childless woman closed to the gift of life.  Our outsides might look more the same, but our interior life is where the richness of friendship and support comes from.

Infertility is such an isolating cross.  If we're not speaking about it openly, there are many assumptions about how we must be living in ways counter to our faith.  If we are speaking about it openly, it can be difficult for our friends and family to know how to love us and share their happy news.

But all of this, the difficulty in relationship between the fertile and the infertile, this difficulty is from the devil.  Satan is attacking life from every angle he can.  Don't think he's not trying to harden your heart in your infertility.  He is.  He's after you, because you're already vulnerable and exposed.  He's trying to kick you when you're down.

This separation of fertile and infertile women is not of God.  God doesn't share in teaching or tradition that we are to be separate in our communities and lives; the fertile on one island, the infertile on another.

It can be painful on both sides, to see friends struggling with large families when we'd take on that burden without blinking.  But it's also hard for them to see us struggle while they yearn for a fraction of the down time we might have.

We are not called to be comfortable in our relationship with each other on this path to heaven.  We are called to embrace each other, lift each other back up, and encourage each other.

And there is blessing in doing it.  Those friendships are precious, and it has nothing to do with the numbers in our vehicles, and everything to do with the love in our hearts, for God and each other.

Our most recent playdate with those big families was blissfully exhausting :)

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Little More Ginger in the Family: Not a Pregnancy Announcement

As a redhead with a few fellow red headed siblings, we often refer to ourselves as "gingers". This week, our family is growing by one Ginger, our new puppy. 

Hubby is not a fan of dogs, but is going along for the ride in making the ladies of his house very happy campers. 

Last week, we met several puppies. We spent about an hour with them and one really stood out. I had that moment where you think, "yes, this is mine". 

I had to travel for work earlier in the week, so we scheduled our pick up day for this morning. 

After our initial meeting, Sweet Pea cried despondently when we drove away without Ginger. It was hard to convince her that we would be back to get her for keeps in one short (or long if you're two) week. 

This morning was the day, and everyone (minus one Hubby) is very excited. 

Obviously a puppy isn't a baby. But, when the babies don't come, there's something unique and special about the new life and joy that a puppy brings into the home. 

It's going to require a lot of effort and training, some things are bound to be ruined, or at least a little wrecked, but I know there's going to be a lot of joy here too. 

We're looking forward to this new adventure and LB is taking responsibility for assisting Ginger's needs very seriously. Watching my kids this happy is going to make the inevitable poo on the carpet more than balance out :)

Happy Mother's Day to all the women in my life, both physical and spiritual. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Photography Tips: A Beginner's Guide with Giedre

I had the pleasure of meeting Giedre at my regional Catholic Women Blogging Network conference.  She was kind enough to share some tips for the aspiring mommy photographer (like me).  She's the one who took my great new profile shot.  

If you're in Chicagoland, I heartily encourage you to get yourself to her the next time you need a headshot, a family photoshoot, or any milestone you want captured. 

Have you always wanted to take better photos of your kids? Did you buy yourself a nice camera, swearing to yourself that you'd learn to use the manual settings? Have you started several daily photography projects, only to forget to keep going by day three?

Well, I really can't help you with that last one (gosh darn it, why ARE daily photo challenges so hard?!), but I CAN send a few quick technical explanations and handy tips your way for how to start shooting better and learning more about your camera while you do it!  

Just start Okay, this one is an obvious one, but your images have no chance of getting better if you're not shooting. Yes, it requires work to constantly remember to grab your camera and lug it around. Yes, it can be a pain to download your photos and sort through them. But if you want to get better, you can't just keep talking about. Take your camera everywhere and shoot constantly.  

Get it in Focus Are all your photos coming out blurry? The reason for this most likely has to do with shutter speed. Well, that and the fact that the kids keep running around non-stop, with more energy than the Duracell Bunny. Since there's no earthly way to make them sit still with folded hands and massive smiles, you have to learn to work around and with their never-ending motion.

The first thing you want to figure out on your camera is how to control the shutter speed. Having problems finding this? Dig out your user's manual. Yes, that incredibly dry looking little booklet that you were hoping was just taking up space in your camera bag. The higher the shutter speed, the faster your camera shoot and the more likely you'll get an awesome "frozen in time" image. Slow shutter speed? All you'll catch is a blur.

Since I don't have any kids of my own to chase after, I convinced my friend, Heather, to stand in the middle of the street and spin for me.
But wait - why isn't everything in focus? A camera is basically a hole that's letting in light. Every time you let in light, voila! A photograph is created.

How much light you let in, determines how bright the photograph is. Too much light = a completely white photograph.

Shutter speed controls how quickly the camera shutter is opened and closed.  Aperture determines the actual size of the hole. The larger the hole, the more light is let into the camera body.

More importantly, though, aperture controls depth of field, or the portion of the photograph that's in focus. Tiny aperture equals large depth of field, large aperture equals tiny depth of field.

Did that sound confusing? It totally did. Okay, just remember: the higher the number, the smaller the aperture, and the more depth of field you have. Here's an example:   Aperture example

You'll notice that all the way to the left, only part of the beads are in focus - the rest are blurry. All the way to the right, however, you can clearly see most of the beads.

More important tips to take into consideration while photographing.... Stop waiting for the picture to come to you

One thing about fancy cameras and sweet lenses is that they can easily make someone incredibly....lazy. Want amazing shots? You have to work for em! Don't just stand on your porch watching your kids play - move around. Experiment with shooting from waaaay up high, or way down low. Stand on your tippy toes or bend down to the ground.

Try to see the world from a fresh perspective, or better yet - from your kids' perspective! Don't rely on the zoom, either: move in closer to get right in the thick of things! perspective2  
Try to simplify You don't need to capture absolutely everything in one photograph. Try moving to a different viewpoint to remove background noise from an image, or just get closer to emphasize the details you think are important. Further or Close  
Figure out what you love shooting I discovered pretty early on that people are what I'm passionate about. I love faces and relationships and seeing people surrounded by those they love best.

Obviously this means you'll rarely see me shooting nature scenes. (although I have been known to post way too many pictures of my yummy food on Instagram!) My point, though? If you're passionate about photographing something specific, it's going to show in your work. So go find that passion!

xox, giedre

Giedre is a portrait photographer & blogger based out of Chicago, Illinois. She carries a canon, shoots obsessively, and always writes about it afterwards. Visit her at: